Former Chinese Defense, Foreign Ministers Resigned and Removed from Posts

Former Chinese Defense, Foreign Ministers Resigned and Removed from Posts

Then Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang reads China's Constitution during press conference in March 2023 (Photo: EPA)


Qin Gang

Former Chinese Foreign Minister (FM) Qin Gang resigned from his position as a deputy of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC) on February 27th. Qin’s resignation was accepted by the Tianjin Municipal People’s Congress Standing Committee during its meeting. The announcement was included in a wider article containing various provincial and municipal Standing Committees accepting or removing NPC representatives. However, the NPC’s Standing Committee did not say they dismissed or removed Qin during their final meeting ahead of next month’s Two Sessions, the NPC and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference meetings in Beijing.

Qin disappeared from public view in early June 2023 without any official explanation from the Chinese government. However, he was removed as FM at the end of July 2023, during a meeting of the NPC’s Standing Committee. The Standing Committee also removed Qin from his State Councillor position in October 2023. Speculation began that Qin was removed from his posts as FM and State Councilor for various reasons. These reasons range from having an affair that produced an illegitimate child to being involved in a spy ring that also included People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force officers.

Central Military Committee organizational charts (L: February 2024, R: October 2023) showing Li Shangfu’s removal (Photo: China’s Ministry of National Defense)

Li Shangfu

On the same day, former Defense Minister (DM) Li Shangfu was removed from his position as Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Central Military Commission (CMC). His name no longer appears on the CMC organizational chart, and the Chinese government did not provide any details regarding when or why it was removed. However, Li still retains his position as a member of the CCP’s 20th Central Committee as well as an NPC representative.

Li disappeared in late August 2023, and like Qin, the Chinese government did not provide any explanation about his disappearance. However, in October 2023, the NPC voted to remove Li from his State Councillor, DM, and state CMC. Much speculation occurred after Li’s disappearance and subsequent removal from his posts, with reasons ranging from being a part of a corruption scandal to being part of a wider power struggle between PLARF officers and Chinese Leader Xi Jinping.


Both Qin’s and Li’s resignation and removal further indicate that any investigation by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) is still ongoing. However, the matter in which they were removed from their positions could provide some insight into the investigations and their potential results. Qin’s resignation as a NPC member means he no longer holds any formal position of power since the NPC previously removed him as FM and State Councilor. The next step for Qin is to be expelled from the CCP, which is the next step before any charges are brought against him. The CCDI would likely end their investigation and transfer the case to either the Supreme People’s Procuratorate or Supreme People’s Court after the Two Sessions and a FM is selected.

However, the matter in which he submitted his resignation also points to him no longer being in any position of power as well as a party member. The Tianjin Municipal People’s Congress Standing Committee accepted his resignation even though the NPC’s Standing Committee also held a two-day meeting at the same time. The resignation indicates that Qin is no longer considered important enough for the Standing Committee to remove him or accept his resignation. Furthermore, it also indicates that while Qin is still formally a party member, he has likely been informally stripped of his party status.

Li’s removal from the CCP’s CMC completes his total removal from any formal connection to the CMC or Ministry of National Defense. His removal also indicates that he will likely be expelled from the CCP at a future time, likely after the investigation is completed. However, there are some indications that the CCDI’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) counterpart, the Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Central Military Commission’s (CDICMC) investigation, is not complete. For example, Li is still an NPC member, a PLA General, and CCP’s 20th Central Committee member, even after being out of public view for approximately six months. However, Li formally retaining the rank and positions is likely due to the scale of the investigation rather than one of his patrons attempting to shield him. It would also indicate that the investigators will take their time conducting their investigation to uncover all of the individuals associated with or connected with Li.

Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin the panda began Sino Talk in 2022 primarily to give an objective, unbiased view on China related topics as well as other issues related to the Indo-Pacific region. He spent several years studying and traveling throughout China and many countries in the Indo-Pacific region. In another life, the panda was also a U.S. Marine intelligence analyst who enjoyed bamboo MREs and drinking bourbon and soju. Indo-Pacific Division Desk Chief for Atlas News.
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